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DIY Gift Ideas on a Budget

Updated: Apr 1

Fun and easy DIY holiday gift ideas for when you’re on a budget

Hand holding a gift box with an icon of a heart on it

The holidays are a time for showing others—whether your friends, family, colleagues, or post officer—you love and care for them. It’s also the time people find themselves up to their eyeballs in debt! (Psst, don’t worry, that’s where we can come in to help.)

It turns out Americans racked up debt after the holidays (1). Though, when you think about it, it makes sense, right? Your favorite stores, whether it's Lululemon or Williams Sonoma, Sephora or Home Depot, these purchases can add up quickly. A pair of joggers for your partner, a fancy saute pan for your dad, some new makeup for your sister, and a new toolset for your friend—all of a sudden, you’ve hit your max budget!

As it turns out, according to American Express, 86 percent of millennials overspend on holiday gifts (2). One in five of the overspending millennials exceed their budgets by $500 or more. What broke the bank? Electronics (69 percent) caused the most millennial overspending, compared to children’s toys (57%), clothes (53 percent), jewelry (38 percent), food or drinks (33 percent) and other gifts (4 percent) (2).

To top it all off, come November, a lot of Americans are still paying off credit debt from the the prior holiday season (3).

Overspending just happens. Especially during a season in which you’re hoping to show your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, post officer, teachers—you get the picture—your love and appreciation. That’s why it’s no surprise that we often turn to our credit cards to burden these holiday purchases.

It may (should!) come as no surprise that credit card debt is incredibly common, and not something we recommend! While having a credit card can be good for building credit (See: How to Build Good Credit), they can also be dangerous tools! In fact, many people misunderstand how to use their credit card, largely from incorrect information they’ve learned from family members or predatory lenders in the past (See: Top Credit Card Myths).

Before you reach for your credit card, Santa (and we, your Pocketnest friends) has a few tips up his sleeve he wanted us to share with you. Do-it-yourself gifts, of course! Right at home, using household items (or inexpensive craft materials), you can create memorable, reusable, sweet and/or nurturing gifts for those who are important to you. Whether you’re crafting a scrapbook, knitting a hat, concocting boozy treats, or mixing a bath bomb, you’re sure to bring your friends and family delight—while keeping your budget intact.

Take a page out of Mrs. Claus’ scrapbook and try one of these DIY gift ideas this holiday season. Your friends, family, colleagues—and wallet—will thank you!

Something Memorable.

Remember the family vacation to the beach your family took over the summer, where your mom brought home a bunch of beautiful shells? Or the millions of pictures from the family reunion? Or the ticket stubs to that first concert you saw together? Whatever the memento, put these memorable items to good use!

Repurpose and transform these special, good-memory-representing objects into small, gift-worthy trinkets. A picture frame, a candle jar, a scrapbook—the options are endless! You can also look to Pinterest to help you out. Not only are you using household items to create this special gift (and saving money!), you’re attaching priceless memories to this gift, making it that much more special.

Something Reusable.

The age of recycling, right?! We’re not recommending you regift here though, hey, sometimes that method can be appropriate! Nah, we’re talking about bringing your giftee value they’ll appreciate and actually use! Think about it: the items you use in everyday life are often the ones you appreciate the most, right? Whether it’s a (painted) coffee mug, a (handmade) keychain, (home-knitted) hat or scarf, again, the options are endless.

Something sweet.

Holidays aren’t the holidays without tasty food, right? Homemade treats are a great way to say “I care about you….and your tastebuds!” You can make homemade Baileys or infused vodka for a nice, boozy treat. Or, cookie or brownies in a jar for the sweet tooth in your group. You can try out a new recipe for fruit leather or homemade granola for the health nuts. Salty, savory, boozy or healthy, these tasty treats make great gifts. Just purchase the ingredients, some cheap glass bottles or jars, ribbon, maybe a silver Sharpie—and you’re all set! Your friends and family will be very grateful, promise.

Something nurturing.

2020 has sure been a year, huh? Why not bring your friends and family a little at-home spa package to let the year’s stress melt away? You can make DIY soaps, bath bombs or even essential oil shower bombs! (For this one, we recommend making a little extra and keeping some for yourself! You deserve a break, too, ya know!)

Making your own gifts for family and friends can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Perhaps in doing so you’ve learned a new skill? Perfected a recipe? Got some extra at-home spa materials for yourself? Or, simply got to reminisce while creating something special for someone special. Whatever the reason, making your own holiday gifts can be a great way to enjoy the holiday season, give those you love special gifts, and also keep your budget and bank account safe and sound.

The DIY route still not your thing? That’s okay! But, before you start swiping, make sure you have a budget put in place (See: Holiday Budget Tips).

  1. CNBC, “Holiday hangover: Americans racked up more than $1,000 each in holiday debt.” (2018)

  2. CNBC, “86% of millennials overspent on holiday gifts last year—here’s how to avoid the same mistakes.” (2020)

  3. Nerd Wallet, “Shop Intentionally to Avoid Holiday Overspending.” (2019)

  4. National Retail Federation, “Holiday 2020.” (2020)


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